(Friday, May 31, 2019) – A new gene therapy called Zolgensma was approved by the FDA on Friday, May 24, with the price tag of $2.1 million The one-time treatment has the potential to cure spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), an inherited disease that often kills babies before their second birthday. The price of the curative treatment has sparked debate over the value of gene therapies and how the healthcare system will be able to afford them.
With the advancements in innovative therapies designed to treat or cure deadly and rare diseases, the question of whether a life is worth $2 million — and whether we as a society can afford that — is becoming the subject of much debate. This is especially true when you consider that for many diseases such as hemophilia, cancer, and MS, an expensive one-time cure may be much less costly for the patient and the healthcare system than a lifetime of treatment and care.
However, our current healthcare system isn’t prepared to handle the high cost of these one-time treatments. Collaboration between insurers, drugmakers, and policymakers should be encouraged to ensure that patients are able to access these lifesaving and transformative treatments.
The promise of gene therapies is finally being realized. These transformative medical innovations can save lives by providing a cure for patients struggling with diseases who previously had little or no hope. These therapies can reduce long-term costs for the healthcare system overall, and fundamentally change the quality of life for patients suffering from chronic conditions. Policymakers, insurers, and other stakeholders should work aggressively to expand coverage and utilization, and to encourage continued innovation in the field of gene therapy. Because they are fundamentally different than traditional pharmaceutical solutions, the costs of these medical breakthroughs should be examined in appropriate context and with a view toward their indirect costs savings not afforded by chronic treatments.